Many labels have been used to describe the music of Exit Calm, from “shoe gazer” to “psychedelic” to “space rock”. But none have been far more appropriate, or more eloquent for that matter, than the tag given to them by Mani of Stone Roses/Primal Scream: “makers of proper f*cking music.” Since 2007, this South Yorkshire band has been crafting a sound of rich in sonic layers of heavy basslines and Edge-influenced guitars, slightly reminiscent to that of very early Echo & the Bunnymen and the Verve (you know, the stuff before “Bittersweet Symphony”). The results have been UK tours with the Bunnymen and The Charlatans, a headlining spot at the opening of Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green club night, and a self-titled debut available on Sonic Unyon (North America) and ClubAC30 (UK). Perhaps what is more fascinating than the band’s achievements, is the determination, steadiness, and confidence in which they have worked to earn them. In a time when most bands become yesterday’s news as soon as their single hits the airwaves, Exit Calm are the silent assassins poised to make a lasting impression on the music world by doing things their way.
Exit Calm comprises of Nicky Smith (vocals), Scott Pemberton (drums), Simon Lindley (bass), and Rob Marshall (guitar). Simon takes the time to answer a few questions from our newest writer, Krystal of K2 Entertainment.
TDOA: A band’s name should represent what they want to present to an audience. Why the name Exit Calm and what message do you feel this conveys to new listeners concerning your music?
SL: The name came from a book I was reading called “Silent Rebels”. I think it has a different name in America. To be honest there wasn’t a great meaning behind choosing the name. It’s more two heavy words that fit well together and would look good on a t-shirt or a album sleeve, which it does. If anything we thought it sounded like embracing the chaos, walking into the storm kind of feeling – not to get too deep about it. The name takes on its own meaning when its put against the music and sounds bands make and eventually becomes something else – like ‘Stone Roses’ or ‘My Bloody Valentine’ are now not just band names, they’re styles of music.
TDOA: Which bassists had the biggest influence on you and at which point did the bass become your instrument of choice?
SL: I chose bass because it was the only job going in my mates band when I was 16. We were the exactly right age for Oasis to take over us and ruin our football careers. They first asked me to sing because I had a good haircut but I bottled it, so my mate Sarge got that job (he had a better hairdo anyway) and I got on the bass. I picked it up pretty quickly to say i’d never even held a guitar before. I’m not the most technical of players, but I do believe that the bass, like the drums – its either in you or not. You can usually tell a natural bass player by how they walk! Influences on me would be Martin Blunt, Ronnie Lane, Simon Jones, Mani, Sean Cook, Laurence O’Keefe from Dark Star. Aside from the main players, I really got into the style of how I play from listening to big beat and stuff. I was mad into from when I was about 20-21 and its never really changed – bands like Lo-Fidelity Allstars, Campag Velocet, Delakota & Regular Fries. I’ve been told theres a lot of dub in how I play but I’ve only really got into that style through hearing it in other people – obviously now I know the music – but I never studied it, there was no king tubby or Robbie Shakespeare in me at all, if I had dub it must’ve been Barnsley dub.
TDOA: Three of you were in the band Lyca Sleep before Exit Calm was formed. How did your experience during that period affect the focus of Exit Calm in regards to music and promotion? In what ways is the music of Exit Calm distinct from Lyca Sleep?
SL: In Lyca Sleep we did believe we we’re doing something totally alien to what was around at the time, it was all The Datsuns and the D4 and most british bands were trying to emulate that waste of time. At the time we couldn’t understand why we weren’t getting anywhere, but looking back we just weren’t good enough – we were all early twenties so still finding our way. But it was important that you learn what not to do, and foundations were laid for something stronger and much better. We’ve never even compared this band to our last band, it feels that separate. I believe this band to be more direct, more tuneful definately, a lot more confident, louder! The biggest distinction obviously is Nicky, aswell as his melody he’s such a commanding presence and voice that it allows us three to be more dynamic and not just make a racket that goes quiet and loud then back again, and again.
TDOA: Exit Calm’s first gig outside the UK was in Tokyo, just 3 months after the band formed. 2010 saw the band’s first journey to Germany. How did the audiences, venues, and promoters in both countries fare in comparison to what Exit Calm is used to in the UK?
SL: Well Germany was just amazing – the people at venues and the crowd we met are the most receptive we’ve ever played to. Our British crowds are cool as fuck and its built over time, so to go there for the first time and already have a crowd every night was incredible. Germany doesn’t seem to have a any boundaries that are set in music and there didn’t seem to be no pop culture creeping in – like over here we’ll have styled nights. Over there it was just people turning up to check you out. Tokyo was a different story in everyway, we we’re treated like angels – Its an mind-blowing city that any band should prepare themselves for. It’d be easy for a to come back from either place thinking you’re a genius – but then you remember your amps still knackered and you’re skint…
TDOA: A lot of “behind the scenes” factors contribute to the success of a great show, not just the turnout of the audience. How do you define a successful gig?
SL: For us its about connection, we know when we’ve got a crowd with us. On stage its about locking in together, when that happens they gigs play themselves. When both happens the gigs are just storming – the first time we sold out London was at the Water Rats, that gig is a big stand out when it all just clicked. We’re lucky enough to have our own full time soundman so not having to worry whats coming out front allows us more freedom to get the right feeling across.
TDOA: To date, Exit Calm has toured the UK with the likes of Echo & the Bunnymen and The Charlatans. There are dozens of well established acts that would kill for this opportunity yet Exit Calm was able to accomplish this before the release of their debut album. How did these tours come about and what was the most important thing that each band taught you?
SL: The Bunnymen dates came about because Will Sargeant had mentioned us on his blog before and played our tunes at DJ sets. Our agent picked up on this and we were offered the tour. The dates were all brilliant, Glasgow Barrowlands being the stand out as its such a magical venue, and we smashed it that night – then they smashed it more! We got the feeling we we’re being shown how its done! Which was fine by us as they we’re stunning. We left that tour with a massive amount of respect for everyone in and around the Bunnymen. The Charlatans was a similar situation. What I loved about playing with them was that you can tell they’re all still bang into what they’re doing, and the togetherness is still apparent which I think is more or less non-existant in new bands. One band I will mention who we toured with is The Sunshine Underground, I went on that tour liking them and came off it loving them. They’re very similar to us in that they seem to stand on their own, totally focused. That was a great thing to see.
TDOA: Exit Calm are known for their extensive touring, only recently taking a break to work on the 2nd album. In such an unpredictable business, what keeps that determination alive?
SL: We can’t help it, its what we do. As soon as it leaves us we’ll walk away knowing that everything we’ve put out has had everything put into it. We’ve done loads in the 4 years we’ve been going. For us its the only way, if you make something worthy, you wanna show it to people – instead of banging your head against the wall you have to get out and get around. In Britain especially, as the turn around of bands is insane, so doing it well live is vital. The music business is only unpredictable because the people making the predictions are usually trend followers.
TDOA: As anyone who has seen Exit Calm live will probably agree, your live show is intense, passionate, and anything but “calm”. What troubles, if any, did you find in translating this intensity to the album?
SL: There was worries that we wouldn’t be able to translate our full sound into recording – i believe the album is as close as we could’ve come and we’re all really happy with how it came out. Its a pretty full on album and it was meant to be. The like of which we’ll not repeat. Our producer, Paddy Byrne had a massive role in how we came across. It was all done live, and he was pushing us to perform in the studio like we we’re playing live. He asked me on one tune why i wasn’t dancing! He had Nicky singing 5 yards from him, pushing him along…as soon as we had it in his head, that was it, move on. A true believer.
TDOA: Exit Calm is represented by ClubAC30 in the UK and Sonic Unyon in North America. Many times a band’s success depends on those they choose to support them. What was the reasoning behind these two choices?
SL: Club AC30 have been with us from the early stages of the band. Robin got in touch and offered to put out a limited 7″ as our first release, we had 2 other offers but AC30 are our kind of label. They’ve shown a lot of faith in us and that means a lot in these times. Sonic Unyon seem to be coming from the same background as AC30, total intergrity in what they release. Both labels also make it known that this is the start of a relationship – again, that means more to us than getting the £80,000 advance and being dropped after your album comes out.
TDOA: Having been chosen to play at the opening of Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green club night as well as Alan McGee’s Greasy Lips Club, it seems Exit Calm is starting to get a good bit of recognition in the UK. How do you think your music will be accepted by American audiences and what challenges do you anticipate?
SL: America is a total blank canvas for us. If someone would just take us there and set us off as we’re eager to see what it’ll bring for us. The bits of interest we’re getting in some parts of America are all positive so hopefully it’ll keep spreading. We really don’t know what to expect as we only know what other bands have told us. In Britain our profile is up and down between realeases really, we’ve been tipped in best new bands lists for the last 3 years! Liam choosing us for Pretty Green has brought about another rise for us and got us some good attention, both over here and in America, and it seems to be the feeling amongst a lot of people that America is our next step so we’ll have to wait and see.
TDOA: A look at the demographics on your message board reveals a following from many parts of the world – UK, USA, Spain, Finland, just to name a few – some of whom have followed you for years and even jumped on a plane to watch you perform. What is it about Exit Calm’s music that makes some people not just fans, but devotees?
SL: Its the most inspiring thing about doing this, that what we do connects and brings people together just because they feel so much for it, it blows us away. At our Barnsley gig at the civic hall in June, we had people there from Spain, France, Poland, Ireland, the top of Scotland, a guy called Adam, who’s a amazing soul, flew over from America for it and went home with our name tatoo’d on his arm. That’s just not The Wombats or Razorlight is it? Thats belief for you. I think overall with the music we give the impression that we give a shit, and people identify with that.
TDOA: Technology has had a significant impact on the music industry both with the advent of downloading and social networking sites. As a new band, what have you found to be the biggest challenges or opportunities?
SL: Personally the over-doing of the social networking thing freaks me out a bit. Saying too much is always worse than saying nothing – I see some bands facebook/myspace pages and it puts me off them – but I understand these things need to be tapped into as its how you connect with people nowadays. Its so easy now for bands to get their music heard with whats going on with the internet. The only thing you can’t change is whether people will actually care about it. It was a bit of a downer for us when some ugly geek leaked our album the day after the press copies were sent out – but thats always going to happen while the internet is with us. The biggest challenge is holding onto things like release dates as events and things that matter, because people can control where and when your music goes and gets heard just if they have a computer. The positive side to this is that our tunes may be heard by someone in Brazil at the sametime as its comes out in England. That can only a good thing. The opportunities to where it could travel are endless. The only thing I live by, is if you ever find yourself putting ‘LOL’ on a band mailout – thats the time to quit.